After going through both dry spells and true torrents in my life when it comes to reading motivation, I’m firmly convinced that about two-thirds of the battle of reading more is simply finding the right books to read in the first place.
For a long time after I graduated college with my degree in English, my desire to read was pretty sapped. I’d spent my 5 college years averaging around 1,000 pages a week in assigned reading, and the concept of being able to read for fun had almost disappeared from my brain, for whenever I DID happen to read something, I generally picked it apart to death, or I only chose books I felt I “should” be reading (but that I wasn’t really interested in). Thus, it should not be any shock that two of the last six years after I started tracking my reading as an adult held less than 20 books apiece, a pretty low number for me (considering that as a teenager, I easily read between 100-180 books in any given year).
A big part of the battle was simply giving up the notion that everything I read needed to be “literary” or a “classic” or come off of a recommended reading list, which concept got a post all of its own a few years back.
But even once that battle was won, I still had to actually FIND books that would hold my interest, that would be well-written enough that I wouldn’t scoff and give up a chapter in, and that would be worth the time investment put into them. Almost all of my books up to that point had been found in one of three ways: 1) they had been assigned to me by a teacher or recommended to me by one (or by another adult in general), 2) they had been on a recommended reading list (which I also usually got at school), or 3) they were chosen at random from the YA section at the library.
As an adult, this system no longer appealed to me quite as much—I was more often than not disappointed when I simply picked a book at random off of some shelf, and, as mentioned before, when I felt restricted to books that were assigned to me or that were off of recommended reading lists, I often found myself reading slooooow books that I was eventually glad that I finished but that took me an awfully long time to do so.
Since giving myself permission a few years back to read whatever the heck I wanted, I’ve been honing my book-finding skills, and I now think I’ve got a pretty decent system set up.
Here is how I now find what I’m going to read next:
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1. I listen to the podcast What Should I Read Next?
This podcast, created by Anne Bogel of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy (which I’ll mention later), is responsible for probably almost half of the books I’ve read over the past couple of years. Each episode of the podcast features a different guest, who tells Anne the titles of three beloved books, one hated book, and then what he/she has been reading lately. Based on that info, Anne then gives the guest 3 book recommendations.
Honestly, I had to force myself to STOP listening to this podcast a few months ago because it was just swelling my TBR list SO much, and I was doing crazy things like putting 10 books on hold at the library at the same time, which was starting to run my life. So now, I’m busy trying to finish up the books I currently have at the library and then read more of the books I own already that I haven’t read. But I know that whenever I’m in the need for another slew of good titles, this podcast is a great start (especially because I can determine pretty readily partway into any given episode if the guest in question has similar reading tastes to mine or not and judge accordingly whether I want to devote the time to finish listening).
2. I’ve found a series of bloggers with book tastes that are pretty similar to mine, who I follow on Bloglovin.
I’d say the vast majority of bloggers I follow do some kind of book round-up posts semi-regularly, but of those bloggers, less than half really share my general taste. I still read pretty much ALL the book-related posts that all the bloggers I follow post, but when these kindred spirits (listed below) post about particularly great titles, I pay more attention.
Some bloggers I’ve found whose tastes mimic mine (and that I’ve gotten SCADS of recommendations from) are:
- Mel from Melthoughts
- Holy cow, this girl has read a TON. Basically, I can almost guarantee that any book I add to my “Want to Read” list in Goodreads, she’s already read and reviewed. She posts reviews of basically everything she reads too (which I love because when people just give a star rating, it doesn’t tell me much), and like I said, her tastes are quite similar to mine in a lot of ways. With few exceptions, we have strong leanings towards the same kinds of books and tend to give pretty similar ratings across the board.
- Amy from Sunlit Pages
- What I especially like about Amy’s blog is that she posts a really wide variety of books, from kids’ books to adult stuff (seeing as she’s got five kids herself, and they all seem to be pretty avid readers/listeners). I also like that a lot of the time, she posts really in-depth reviews of single books. This can be super hit-and-miss for me on a lot of blogs, but because her taste is so similar to mine, I often find that her in-depth review is exactly what I need to motivate myself to finally pick up a particular title.
- Suzanne from Such Stuff
- Suzanne and Amy (from above) actually do a fun book podcast together, which is how I found out about her blog. Although she’s been super busy getting her PhD, Suzanne still finds time to post book reviews, and I like that she incorporates a lot of classics into her reading repertoire, rather than just reading contemporary stuff. It often gives me the push I need to finally tackle those classics myself!
- Allison from Mind Joggle
- This blog was kind of a love-at-first-sight blog for me–it’s basically a whole blog devoted to books, the reading life, and writing, and her tastes are just different enough from the other bloggers I follow closely (but still resonate enough with my tastes) that I often get a ton of new titles from her that I don’t get anywhere else. She definitely favors more of the contemporary stuff, but I’ve found that when we have read the same books, I find myself really nodding along with her reviews. I also like that she pushes herself to read a wide diversity of books that cover a lot of different perspectives, which is something I need to work on.
- Janssen from Everyday Reading
- Another blogger that reads an insane amount (and she has four young kids….how?!?), so I know that if I want to check out how a book has been reviewed on Goodreads, chances are pretty good she’s already left one. Seeing as she used to be a children’s librarian and has four young girls of her own, her lists heavily favor younger stuff, so I get a lot of my YA titles from her blog (not to mention hundreds of great titles to introduce to Raven). Her taste in adult books tends to be a little fluffier than mine (though she still reads a LOT of more literary stuff and nonfiction too), so if I’m in the mood for a lighter read, I often pick up one of her suggestions.
- Anne from Modern Mrs. Darcy
- I can basically credit this blog for getting me to start picking up stuff that wasn’t solely on recommended reading lists, which is what lit my current reading fire that’s been going for a few years now. Although she reads a lot of stuff that isn’t my style at all, she also gives just enough of a description (both on her blog and in her podcast, mentioned above), that I can generally know whether a title she reviews is going to be for me or not. Plus, each year, I eagerly await her Summer Reading Guide to find some great stuff for those lazy summer months, when I tend to read even more than usual.
- Elena from Beautiful Hope
- I don’t even remember now how I found Elena, but we’ve been friends on Goodreads for ages, and I’ve also followed her blog for years. Her reviews of what she reads are extremely descriptive and thorough, and I find that many (many!) of the books she reads and loves are right up my alley, too. I particularly like that she also seeks out a lot of uplifting literature without too much profanity, sexual content, etc., which is something I try to do as well.
3. When I find that I’ve been reading too much “fluff”, I head back to my recommended reading lists.
Yes, I know this seems to contradict everything I wrote above, but basically, I have to have a balance—I find that reading only classics and more “literary” stuff tends to kill my drive to read a lot, but reading a lot of fluffy, “candy” reads ALSO tends to kill my reading drive. So the trick is balancing some really good, meaty reads with some more fun reads (and ideally, to read them at the same time).
I have LOADS of book lists that I’ve printed out and that I go through and cross off finished titles with a highlighter, but I’ll just feature my favorite ones below:
- The 100 Most-Recommended Classics
- This one actually got its own blog post several years back because it’s been a long-time goal of mine to read every single work on this list. (For the record, I’ve read 31 in their entirety, and large selections of five more.) Because many of these books are definitely on the more difficult side, I’ve chosen to include one each “term” on my Assigned Reading list for the year. I also made it one of my goals off of my 101 in 1001 list to read a selected number off of this list because it’s still a life goal of mine to finish them all.
- 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
- I checked out this book years ago and have been using the list as a blueprint ever since. Of course, I recently discovered that in the past couple years, they’ve made significant revisions to the list to include more recent titles as well as a wider diversity, so the actual list now comprises around 1300 titles, if I remember correctly. I need to print out the newly revised list (just because that’s something that will bug me if I don’t, and I like having lots of books on my lists because I’m weird like that). This list features several of the more well-known “classics” (which often overlap with the list above), but it also includes a lot of modern works that are just considered more “literary” (which often overlap with the Pulitzer list).
- Newbery Award Winners/Runners-Up
- Having taught middle school for four years, I seem to be permanently in the mindset that I need to keep up (at least somewhat) with what’s hot (or at least worthwhile) in the YA lit market. Often, YA reads no longer appeal to me as an adult, but the majority of Newbery winners and finalists are still definitely worth my time, and–bonus!–they’re usually WAY easier for me to get through than any of the books on the other lists. (I’ve also been including titles off of this each term for my Assigned Reading.)
- Pulitzer Prize Winners for Fiction + Finalists
- This is a more recently printed-out list, but I found that there’s enough titles that differ from any of the other lists (probably just because this list adds new titles every year) that made it worth checking out (not to mention that I admire the award in general). A lot of the books on this list (especially the more recent ones) tend to have a lot of triggers/language in them, however, so I tend to tread more carefully when I pick a title off of this one.
- The Rory Gilmore Book Challenge
- Although my feelings about the t.v. show itself are decidedly mixed, I do love the compilation of books on this list–a great mix of tried-and-true classics and modern-day bestsellers.
- College Bound Reading List
- This one’s similar to the 100 Most-Recommended Classics, but this list is more extensive (it has 68 more titles on it), and it is also generally more diverse, both in origin of the work and in content/genre. This is also the only list that has a (very) brief synopsis of what the book is about under each title.
4. I joined Book of the Month and read their descriptive summaries of the latest releases to see if any are for me.
I’d heard of Book of the Month ages before I joined, but when I finally decided to try it out through someone’s referral link (if you go through mine, you can get your first hardback book for a steal!), I was completely hooked. With so many books being published every month now, it’s basically impossible to stay on top of all of them, but I like that BOTM gives five very different types of selections from a diversity of authors, genres, and styles, and with their succinct summaries of content and themes and plotlines, I can usually always pick a winner. I love that I can skip as many months as I want, and I love that I get some of the new releases I’m most excited about for a ridiculously good price (esp. for a hardcover!).
(You can check out some of the books I’ve recently gotten from my BOTM boxes here.)
5. I ask for (and receive!) loads of good recommendations from YOU, my lovely blog readers.
Since I started regularly blogging back in 2011, I’ve been posting book reviews and asking for book recommendations at the end of nearly every single one. And boy, have you all delivered! I have gotten LOADS of great suggestions over the years (many of which I’ve already read, the others of which I’ve added to my Want-to-Read shelf in Goodreads). I’ve also followed a bunch of my readers on Goodreads, which is another great source of book possibilities for me. To check out some of those recommendations, just click into my “Books and Reading” tab at the top of the blog–several of those posts have great comments with specific reading suggestions!
Besides these four ways, I will occasionally find books through those free magazines you can pick up at the library, “best of” or “bestseller” lists (which I often see floating around on Pinterest), or fellow book-lovers who I actually talk to in person (astonishing, I know).
Since I currently have over 250 titles on my “Want to Read” shelf on Goodreads (which is how I now have to track all the books I want to eventually get around to), I haven’t had to put too much energy into seeking out new titles to read lately (although that doesn’t mean that I’m not always on the lookout for them!), but I’m glad that I’ve finally gotten a TBR stack that I’m honestly and truly excited about, which is, like I said earlier, more than half the battle when it comes to reading more.